CHICAGO — The Washington Nationals traded catcher Kurt Suzuki back to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night, according to multiple sources, thus ending his tenure of just more than a year with the ballclub.
It is believed that the Nationals received a pitching prospect back in the deal, and The San Francisco Chronicle reported early this morning that prospect is 22-year-old right-hander Dakota Bacus, which a source confirmed. The move sends the veteran catcher back to the only other organization he’s known in his professional career.
The Nationals acquired Suzuki last August in an effort to bolster their injury-depleted and inexperienced catching corps for the playoff run.
Suzuki did just that, and gave the Nationals a much-needed offensive boost at the position down the stretch.
In 43 games, Suzuki hit .267 with 10 extra-base hits and 25 RBI. He helped stabilize their young pitching staff, becoming integral to the success of Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann and became an extremely well-liked teammate.
The affable Suzuki was relied on heavily this season as well, stepping in easily when Wilson Ramos missed over 50 games with a left hamstring strain.
But his playing time had decreased significantly since Ramos returned, and his offense fell off from his strong production toward the end of the 2012 season.
Since Ramos returned from the disabled list, Suzuki has appeared in just 16 games and started only 12.
“Thank you Nats fans for the love and support!” Suzuki tweeted early Friday morning before he boarded a flight from Chicago to Baltimore to meet the A’s there this weekend. “I enjoyed every minute. First class org. It’s a business and now it’s time to go get that ring.”
He followed that up with: “Hello Oakland! Pumped to be back and ready to go make a run at this. Let’s do this!!!!”
The Nationals traded catcher David Freitas last year in order to acquire Suzuki. Freitas, a 15th-round selection in the 2010 draft, was highly regarded within the organization but at the time the Nationals viewed catcher as one position in which they had extreme depth. They also traded catcher Derek Norris to the A’s in the Gonzalez trade before the 2012 season.
Bacus is 9-5 this season, mostly as a starter, with a 3.56 ERA. In his first professional season, in 2012, he appeared mostly as a reliever. Scouts speak highly of the Single-A Beloit pitching staff so it will be interesting to see how the Nationals use him and at what level.
The Nationals have found parts they like in Oakland’s farm system before. During spring training they selected the player to be named in the Michael Morse trade, which had already brought A.J. Cole back to the organization as well as Blake Treinen. That PTBNL turned out to be Ian Krol, who became a valuable member of the Nationals’ bullpen for much of this season.
The Nationals will have to add another catcher before they open their series against the Royals on Friday afternoon in Kansas City, and calling up Jhonatan Solano from Triple-A appears to be the most likely scenario. Solano was scratched from Triple-A Syracuse’s game on Thursday.
The Nationals held an option on Suzuki for the 2014 season but it at $8.5 million it was unlikely they were going to pick it up. The Chronicle reported that the Nationals will send $675,000 to the A’s in the deal, just as the A’s sent money to the Nationals to cover some of Suzuki’s 2012 salary.